Our Story The history behind YAL

J.J. Simons

J.J. “Boss” Simons

Young Australia League Ltd was formed by J.J. “Boss” Simons in 1905 as the Young Australia Football League, to promote Australian Rules Football in the Western Australian schools. The success of his venture resulted in the W.A. Football Association taking over this aspect of development and the Y.A.F.L. simply became the Y.A.L.

The Y.A.L. attracted many youth by its involvement with sport and talented youngsters who were musically inclined formed our first band, whilst those physically active helped form the gymnastics side of the League. The grouping together of a great many youth led to the idea of giving these people an avenue for adventure and experience. In the 1920s land was purchased for this outdoor way of life in the Canning Valley at what is now known locally as Araluen. Camping, swimming, bushwalking, band performances etc all had their role within the Park and this attraction fostered more recruits for the Y.A.L.

In 1909, a party of American boys under the leadership of the Late Major Sidney S. Piexotto toured Australia under the care and guidance of  Young Australia League. A reciprocal tour of Australian boys was made to America in 1911 under the leadership of “Boss” Simons. This contingent then went further afield and toured England and the Continent.

Since then many overseas tours have been arranged and conducted. One such tour had the distinction of being presented with the U.S. Presidential wreath at the time of Herbert Hoover’s inauguration. It is the only Presidential wreath located outside of the United States of America and currently sits proudly in the Museum at the League’s headquarters in Murray Street, Perth, Western Australia.

In 1929 the League concluded negotiations for the purchase of a 59ha property in the Darling Scarp some 35 kilometres south-east of Perth. This ideal property was named “Araluen” and dedicated to the service of youth in 1930 by the then Governor of Western Australia, Sir William Campion. The development of this property was undertaken with the help of members and structures reflected a strong cultural link to Canada and the United States. “The Grove of the Unforgotten” was a significant structure that was dedicated to the memory of 89 members who paid the ultimate sacrifice during World War I. Altogether 500 members of the Y.A.L. volunteered for active service.

Sadly, the founder’s vision waned following his death in 1948. By 1985 Araluen had fallen into disrepair and without the means to maintain the property, let alone restore it, the Y.A.L. had little option but to sell Araluen. Today it is owned by the Western Australian Government and is actively managed by the Araluen Botanic Park Foundation Inc, a not-for-profit volunteer organisation, which has been responsible for its restoration, preservation and development since 1990. Araluen is a truly very special place and is a major tourist destination that attracts around 100,000 visitors annually.

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